Thursday, March 29, 2007

this is our country

Captain America: Man Without A Country
Mark Waid/Ron Garney/Pino Rinaldi/Scott Koblish

beware the ides of March ... this is my send-off to Steve Rogers, affectionately known around these parts as the one, the only* Captain America.

* well, who knows what the devious minds at Marvel will think of next?

despite being an Iron Man guy, i still read some memorable issues of Captain America from my childhood years - the Madbomb (Jack Kirby rocks!), the Bernie Rosenthal years, Scourge, Flag Smasher and U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., and of course whenever Tony and him appear in the Avengers. as it is difficult enough to procure comics back home, i've only heard of but never read one of most-raved about Cap storylines ever, "Man Without A Country", until today.

the story picks up from where we find Sharon Carter/Agent 13, the once and future lover (and killer?) of Steve Rogers, renewing ties (if in a little tense kind of way) with him ... this after Steve discovers her working underground after thinking she's been dead for years. just to note, Sharon's older sister Peggy used to knock boots with Steve back in WWII. getting frozen for decades allowed him to do the same to Peggy's younger sister. maybe this "death" of Cap is just a ploy to "put him in suspended animation" again, because he "learns" that Sharon has a much younger sister (eeeeewwww!).

treason ... the treason that we fear ... our feelings won't disappear

events of the past few issues - Cap slipping into a coma due to loss of the Super-Soldier Serum, Sharon's resurrection, who's currently labeled an outlaw by S.H.I.E.L.D., and Cap's own 'resurrection' at the hands of his most hated enemy, the Red Skull, and his forced alliance with him - attract the attention of the powers-that-be in the U.S. government, forcing them to arrest their country's most valiant and enduring symbol (at least in comic book world).

he actually gets an audience with Willy himself (that's Prez Bill Clinton to you, Republicans).

a sometime-frenemy, General Chapman, presents the video evidence of Cap working side-by-side with the Red Skull, and Cap tries to explain his side. however, Bill argues that a supersecret weapon - the Argus Cannon - has fallen into the hands of Moldavia (that's a semi-fictional Euro country ... well, technically, because it used to be a Soviet republic and is now a fully-independent country called Moldova. whatever.). how it got there is the mystery, because only two men know the specs of the Cannon - Bill and Cap. Bill thinks that Cap may have given up the secrets to the Skull and his techno lackey, Machinesmith, for the chance to be reborn. Cap refutes this but has no evidence. Bill doesn't give him the chance to clear his name, stripping him of his citizenship and exiling him to the U.K. if that wasn't bad enough, they take away his costume and shield too. politicians. they really know where to hurt you.

could be worse ... he could have been sent to the Sudan

of course, Sharon's not gonna take that sitting down, is she? she still has feelings for Cap, even though sarcasm dribbles from her lips every time she opens them (not those lips, idiot!). so she follows him around like a smitten schoolgirl, all the while imagining that its his fault that she's following him around. girls!!!

she even gives him a gift: replacement duds and an energy shield - a concept they would take further in a future Captain America relaunch after the then-being-planned (and stupid) Heroes Reborn. obviously, Steve Rogers is still the über-man who can kick ass, probably even if he wore a loincloth (check out 1602).

setting a course for Moldavia, Cap and Sharon get ambushed by Machinesmith's thugs, and they have to steal a jet from a nearby US Air Force base to bait the Moldavians to shoot them down with the Argus Cannon. see, Cap's not above breaking the law. that's why he went against the Registration Act.

always the man with a plan. they get shot down, they survive, he finds the Argus Cannon, and disables it. all in a day's work.

the only thing he can't foolproof-plan against, is this cliche ...

which of course, always leads to this ...

you naughty, naughty Steve Rogers, you. that's why everyone loves you.

of course, while they're figuring out if their foreplay is gonna lead anywhere, they get captured.

Machinesmith, a brilliant robotics specialist who can transfer his mind into other robot duplicates, follows standard supervillain protocol and explains to everyone the WWWWWH. say what you want about the jerk; he makes good copy.

Cap is horrified that Machinesmith knows he still wets the bed

aha! so Steve Rogers wasn't a traitor! everyone knew it except Bill Clinton. dammit. he should really stop meeting with cigar-smoking White House interns.

Machinesmith leaves our heroes with two problems: (1) he takes control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier (well, at least the ones with bosses in it), and attempts to crash it on Mt. Hood; and (2) he actually informs them that he is going to assassinate the Prez (i betcha Monica was his favorite niece!).

isn't Cap the man with the plan? easily breaking free, he leaves Sharon in charge of getting the helicarrier back on track while he finds a way out of Machinesmith's HQ. now, we're supposed to believe that Sharon can hack and crack with the best of them, simply by pounding on the keyboard.

you know what they say about monkeys and Shakespeare ...

meanwhile, the now scruffy-looking Cap, distracted by the possibility of the leader of free world being whacked, doesn't notice how ridiculous he looks - ripped S&M gear and on his hands and knees. call his publicist, dammit!

no, he doesn't. he has you where he wants you.

how to get to the U.S. quickly? why, just go to Moldavia's next door neighbor, Latveria, and borrow Dr. Doom's personal supersonic plane. you know, Victor Von Doom, just one of the more powerful Marvel supervillains, who tried to subjugate the world time and time again. does the Fantastic Four know about this? tsk, tsk, Cap ... conniving with another bad guy. this is gonna down. on. your. permanent. record.

through all this, Machinesmith is kind enough to wait for Cap (the Moldavian delegation appears at Camp David for negotiations) to show up. even if it took him several hours to run to Latveria, chat with Doom, and actually fly back to the US. good thing Camp David is on the East Coast.

Cap was right about one thing: Machinesmith wasn't simply gunning for Bill. he wanted the codes to the much-ballyhooed football, and start WWIII. in being the guinea pig for Machinesmith's mind-jumping/reading abilities, the President realizes the truth.

but wait! hold your horses! break out the champagne! play his entrance music! because Captain America is here!!!

(Cap's fake shield and uniform is brought to you by Latveria Party Costumes, Inc.)

"heeeeeere i come to save the daaaaaaay!"

Machinesmith, seeing the tide turning, jumps into the football/laptop. Cap realizes this, and throws the thing into a conveniently-existing gas tank near burning wrecks. that'll teach him. technology. pfah!

"Rogers, wait! let me offload my porn first! waaiiit!"

one thing though; the whole experience made Bill proud of himself, being side by side with Captain America in action. although he didn't do much. kinda like playing with Michael Jordan, contributing 4 measly points, and declaring thereafter that "i remember the night Michael and i combined for 60. that was the greatest night of my life!"

all's well that ends well. Cap regains his status, his citizenship, and of course, his uniform and shield. hey Cap, what about Sharon? "oh shit, i forgot all about her, stranded in Moldovia. oh well, she's a big girl. she better give me a call when she gets back Stateside. that chick is hot!i'll clear my appointments for her. promise!"

"Mr. President, why is your fly open?"

ok, i know this storyline came out in 1996, but if we nudge it a year or two, we might have had this scene.

there goes Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.

you the man, Steve. godspeed.
issues read: Captain America vol.1 #450-453

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

animal man

Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely

using animals in warfare certainly isn't a new concept. they have always been mostly beasts of burden or used as a quasi-weapons (was that an armored rhino in 300?). animal testing in modern times has always been a controversial issue. but for all the fictional nuggets we've come up with in movies and books, none does make quite an impact like WE3. right from the start, do not recommend this book to the PETA/ASPCA crowd. they'd go nuts.

Grant Morrison, drug-addled shaman/conjurer of crazy conspiracy stuff, tones down the crazy but ups the conspiracy in this 3-part series where we begin with stunned faces on presumably soon-to-be-dead people.

"por qué? anna nicole es muerto!? no puede! pendejo!"

we learn later that these are the scruffy soldiers of a banana republic dictator, and there's really no shame in wasting their sorry asses.

Morrison's partner-in-crime, the tastefully-named Vincent Deighan, a.k.a. Frank Quitely, gives us - in my mind - the best splash page of his career. or even of all splash pages. i've seen him do X-Men and The Authority (Bryan Hitch is no slouch either), and man, this is faaaaaaaaantastic.

just to let you drool over how cool that was, here's a larger version.

three robotic creatures responsible for assassinating a head of state return to base, and we all go, 'whoa!' when its revealed that they're just ... a dog, a cat and a rabbit.

jet-engine assembling rats? a rabbit acting as a poison gas delivery system? cats and dogs comparable to fighter planes and tanks? who else is responsible for this despicable ... morally-bankrupt, ethically-challenged enterprise of turning poor creatures into WMD? why, who else but the most powerful nation on earth!

don't you like a text-ready pet canine?

once military scientist types utter the words "(they) only kill enemies of our nation" in reference to living weapons ... run away. far, far away.

a visit by the top brass results in an order to decommission WE3, presumably to breed their own animals later ("what kind of lunatic would teach a killing machine to talk?"). Dr. Roseanne Berry, project mastermind, sees all of her life's work going down the drain. the animals themselves, hearing the word "decommission", understand enough that they are going to be put out to pasture.

and you know what happens next.

the weapons formerly known as Bandit, Tinker and Pirate escape the holding facility and boldly go into a whole new world. you can just imagine plugging that Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle song here as they leap out into the unknown.

"no one to tell us no, or where to go ... or say we're only dreaming"

most of issue #2 is spent with me getting sprayed by blood and gore ... with most of those coming from the conventional military forces sent to track down their wayward biorgs (clinically, Bio-Modified Organisms). and only as Quitely can depict.

paging John Woo ... your white pigeons can do the same thing, right?

Tinker the cat wants to run far away but Bandit the dog is still a good soldier, and their different mindsets bring them against each other, tooth and claw. only the cutesy bunny reminds them that they are all friends. awwwwwww.

hah! good luck if Disney options this movie.

after getting human troops decimated, the scientists sic other weapons on the trio. these people are in charge of WMDs??

at least we all hate something in common.

an accidental train crash/derailment ups the body count, and Morrison plugs in a poignant moment amidst the bloodshed. the dog tries to save a man by pulling him to shore ... not knowing there's only half of the man left.

tragedy then strikes as Pirate the rabbit, trying to find someone to fix his tail, approaches a hunter, his own dog and his son. Pirate gets shot, and Bandit and Tinker have to kill the hunter and the dog. the child wanders away in fear and is found by the authorities. which leads to the last resort: putting WE4 in play.

did i mention WE4 is a large, bloodthirsty mastiff?

WE3, hungry and bloodied, take shelter by the trainyards, where they are found by a derelict, who takes pity on them and disavows any knowledge of them when questioned by the searching police and soldiers.

cats hate burgers. whodathunk?

Dr. Berry, guilty over her role in letting We3 escape, is forced to bait them into position where WE4 can terminate them. the injured rabbit, not firing on all cylinders, goes out of hiding to look for the derelict, against the dog's orders. which then leads to another expected horrific event.

just say the word ooohhh .... cu-cu-CuJo!

Pirate commits suicide by shitting a grenade. all the mil-scientists hope for is that it was the cat that died. fraidy cats.

Dr. Berry lures the dog into position for the snipers to kill. but she sacrifices herself and lets the dog know before getting split open by bullets, that his given name is "Bandit". as with when Pirate got shot by the hunter, Bandit takes command responsibility seriously and blames himself for the death of his human friend.

unhinged, Bandit runs and comes face-to-face with a slightly injured WE4. he holds off the bigger dog until Tinker attacks from behind (and takes out WE4's eyes, hehe). the melee spills into a tunnel highway, endangering cars with civilians. Bandit even saves a cop from the blinded and enraged WE4. faced with no options, the military decides to remote-terminate the mastiff.

i guess he couldn't take the drama and the violence

the surviving cat and dog hide in a housing project. Bandit finds his broken armor falling off, and comes to the realization that:

with that epiphany, they set one final trap for the pursuing soldiers.

i've been itching to get my hands on this book ever since i heard about it, and it was worth the wait. Morrison doesn't disappoint, although i had a feeling he was exorcising some inner hatred for animals here while gleefully writing the story. or maybe i am just imagining things. at least he got paid for it. and he'll be paid more, if the New Line project gets greenlighted.

though the story is best set in the fictional world, it still wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that somehow, somewhere, someone has already said these words:

i'm keeping an eye on the next cockroach i see. you never know.
issues read: WE3 #1-3

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The Amazing Spider-Man #539, "Back in Black, Part 1"
J. Michael Straczynski/Ron Garney/Bill Reinhold

all you need to know about this issue is this:

and this:

and this:

and of course, this (which was the worst-kept secret of the last few months):

some notes:
- i was lucky to get my Straczynski books, the Supreme Power TPBs, autographed at the NYCC. i thought he was done writing Spider-Man. or maybe it was the FF. anyway, this better have a nice payoff. Kingpin, gunning for Spidey? wait, wasn't he killed when DD (Matt Murdock) finally got out of jail and smoked Bullseye's and his fat ass? i gotta go back and brush up on my Daredevil.

- i don't know but somehow Ron Garney's work is getting shoddy (could it be Bill Reinhold's inks?). i mean, i had this idea of clean, dynamic art on his Captain America run with Mark Waid. i will post the "Man Without a Country" series by the end of this month as a final salute to Steve "I Believe" Rogers.

- who wants to bet if Spidey really kills someone by the end of this story arc? shouldn't he blame Tony Stark for talking him into outing himself?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

armed and dangerous

in the upcoming QT/Robert Rodriguez splatterfest Grindhouse, Rose McGowan plays Cherry, an 'augmented' assassin in the Planet Terror segment. and no, its not your usual augmentation.

reminds me of the Daredevil villain Bushwhacker. i wondered how the hell does he do his schtick ... arms morph into different weapons (but i never saw him try a Patriot Missile launcher). its implied that he's a mutant although other reports say he's a cybernetically-enhanced former CIA agent (why am i not surprised).

if he's a mutant, shouldn't he have figured out in X-crossovers in the past? oh, that's right, they already had a similar action figure - Random.

not to mention the technomorphing Marauder himself, Scalphunter.

with all these badass villains, it makes Cherry look like she belongs in kindergarten. an M-16/M-203 hybrid? gedouddaheah.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

come get some

i'm officially declaring March 2007 to be Steve Rogers Month ... here he is after getting some. you can see the afterglow on his face.

Brad Pitt loves roleplaying.

in the 4-part "SuperPatriot" storyline in 2004 by Robert Kirkman, Cap, despondent after the events in Avengers Disassembled, runs into an old flame, former Serpent Society badgirl Diamondback. they waste little time getting into the sack. but Cap doesn't know that Rachel Leighton is working with his #1 pain-in-the-ass, The Red Skull!

not till 2007, Johann.

the Serpent Society guns for Diamondback, and they are both captured. Cap opens a 12-pack of whupass on the snakes, and Diamondback feels like its 1999 - she changes her mind about killing Cap. which means the Skull isn't gonna like that decision.

just one of the thousand cases of domestic abuse in America

the Skull kills Diamondback, then turns his ire on his real target, Cap. he cheated because he procured some kind of hyped-up armor from a S.H.I.E.L.D. traitor, and gives Cap a messy beating. well then, why did he need a girl to do his prep work? coward.

and since this is Marvel, Diamondback rises from the dead! and saves Steve's butt! and kicks the Red Skull's ass! and S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives just in time before Rachel chokes the life out of him (aawww, we could have prevented the 2007 Red Skull machinations from taking place! damn you, Nick Fury!)

so as it turns out ... Steve Rogers was bangin' a ROBOT!!!

"not approved for use?" hell, Cap already 'used' that one ...

so the real Diamondback shows up, and while Steve's being treated for his injuries, another ex shows up ...


thinking how awesome it was to bang a robot, Steve wants to see if doing the real thing was just as good (take that, Tony Stark!).

that's right, he said "get a room!" damn, he's not 'a man out of time' anymore.

issues read: Captain America vol. 4, #29-32